We are an increasingly divided nation. Americans continue to give conflicting visions at the ballot box of which direction the country should be headed. The two candidates for president seem to represent the more extreme versions of status quo (Clinton) or “let’s burn this place down” (Trump). Neither candidate has a popular mandate. In fact, Americans’ distaste of both party’s candidates is record breaking.
How then did we end up here?
Giving credit where credit's due it’s fair to say Trump has consistently demonstrated an uncanny ability to connect with a minority within the Republican party that feels—right or wrong—their voice hasn’t been heard by the party establishment. In an unusually crowded race this appears to have been all that was necessary to propel him to victory. He was, after all, nominated with the lowest number of delegate votes in forty years.
The Democrat primary was a little more cut and dry. Clinton did win a decisive majority, but she did so against one of the weakest field of candidates the party's put forward in recent memory to the point an aging socialist who'd only recently registered as a Democrat was able to give her a run for her money. Not to mention she had insider help from the DNC.
It can be tempting to conclude that we are where we are because—as is often said—“the system is broken”. But the primaries demonstrated the system is anything but broken. It worked in the sense that it did precisely what it is designed to do. It did not give us the best candidates to choose from (such a system doesn’t exist), nor did it give us the most popular candidates that the majority could all agree upon (such a system would be a direct democracy which is essentially tyranny of the majority over the minority). Rather, the system worked in that it gave us candidates that best represent “we the people”.
Perhaps the system could use some tinkering, but that wouldn’t guarantee better candidates. For that we must turn our attention to a much more urgent and important problem: the collective character of the nation. You see, a conservative knows that people are not just machines. That’s why no system, no matter how flawlessly designed, can ensure good government. If we’re to live in the sort of society we can be proud of we must resist the temptation to blame things on “the system” and instead direct our attention to “the soul”. And the soul of the country, I am sad to say, is in utter disarray.
The system’s job is to give us the candidates that best represent us. If we’re looking for the system to save us, we can expect nothing better than the choice before us this November. It’s our collective responsibility to become the sort of people fit for self-governance. The seed of liberty only blossoms in the soil of the righteous soul.